Five years after NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft entered into orbit around Mars, data from the mission has led to the creation of a map of electric current systems in the Martian atmosphere. Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a protective global magnetic field to shield its upper atmosphere from the solar wind. Instead, the solar wind crashes into the upper atmosphere and its magnetic field lines drape around the planet. This creates an induced magnetosphere that tugs on charged particles in the Mars upper atmosphere, generating electric currents. Now, MAVEN’s detailed measurements of the magnetic environment surrounding Mars have revealed the shape of these electric currents for the first time.
In this data visualization, the yellow arrow at upper left shows the direction of the solar wind at Mars, while cyan lines depict the solar wind magnetic field observed by MAVEN. Blue and red arrows indicate the direction of electric currents in the Mars upper atmosphere, which were derived from several years of MAVEN data. These currents provide structure for the magnetic environment surrounding Mars, including the solar wind bow shock (gray outer paraboloid) and the Mars induced magnetosphere (green inner paraboloid).
GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 184.108.40.206.0